Renovation from the Heart
If you’ve ever taken a drive through South Hill, you’ve seen the signs pointing to Irie Life, the boutique owned by Lynne Picard and housed in a brightly coloured 100-year-old wooden West Indian cottage. Such a well-loved building must have a story.
Lynne describes her first experience of Anguilla in the mid-80s as “love at first sight.” Chicago-born, but raised in Georgia (U.S.A., not Eastern Bloc), she was living in St. Martin by then, but it would take nearly a decade before fate smiled on her and she could finally get her dream move to Anguilla. After the devastation of Hurricane Luis in 1995, she found the house, fell in love again, and decided to set up Irie Life.
“Everyone said we were crazy, that we should be on the main road,” she remembers. “We all just loved this house, so we put up signs to lead to the store.”
Formerly owned by Calvin Richardson, the century-old house was structurally sound but almost derelict when Lynne took it over. She added an awning over the front porch was added and a railing around it. Inside, she removed laminated wood partitions, exposing the structural columns. Next came the floors, which proved more challenging than expected. “We had to reinforce the floor because you could stand inside and bounce up and down,” she recalls.
Floor woes continued a year later, when termites decimated the new wood. Taking no chances a second time, Lynne “bought marine ply, then had the entire space fogged for termites.” Though seemingly drastic, it worked: “That was 12 years ago, and we’ve had no problems since,” she comments.
Today, the cottage enjoys a new incarnation, complete with gingerbread trim and a bright, Rastafarian colour scheme. Lynne explains that the choice of colours represent “the ‘Irie Life’: the colors of the Caribbean and its African heritage.”
This vibe, which carries over to the owner herself, contributes to Irie Life’s success, even when the old house shows its age. “We need to replace the shutters because they are literally held together by the paint!” she jokes.
Nevertheless, Lynne sees the building as an integral part of her business. “Wood is natural and warm and welcoming, as opposed to concrete, which is cold and holds no vibration,” she points out. “Walking on a suspended wood floor is easy on the feet.”
Would she do it again? Emphatically, “Yes, in a heartbeat! We have never regretted that decision.” She continues, “This house has a history of love and caring, and we are privileged to carry on that tradition.